Food & Drink

Apex gets three new eateries

Looks as if Apex is taking that "peak of good living" motto seriously. The town's dining and drinking options continue to grow rapidly, outpacing every other city in the Triangle on a per capita basis. (OK, I don't have scientific data to back up that claim, but after applying all the analytical skills of my English major background, I'm pretty confident.)

Apex has even landed a whopper of a seafood restaurant, luring Ocean Grill (121 N. Salem St.; 303-1699; www.theoceangrill.com) away from Cary. The new location, in a restored century-old building on downtown's bustling main drag, is smaller than the original. But it's loaded with period charm, and boasts a cozy upstairs bar where food is also served.

The menu has been streamlined a bit, too, but still offers an impressive selection of fresh seafood flown in daily, hand-cut and filleted on site. Chef Franz Propst remains in charge of the kitchen, transforming the catch into a varied offering ranging from simple grilled cobia to Maine sea scallops with Parmesan risotto and a warm bourbon bacon vinaigrette.

A mile away in Haddon Hall Commons -- but culinary worlds apart -- is Rudy's (780 W. Williams St.; 303-5061), where the most popular item on the menu is Buffalo wings. According to owner Mike Parent, who opened the restaurant in April with partner Dana Kleifges, the wings' popularity is no mystery. They're "legit Buffalo wings," made with a recipe Parent picked up when he lived in Buffalo.

But wings are hardly the only reason that Rudy's has been packing them in, in a location where several other restaurants have failed. The menu offers a broad sampling of pub fare and all-American favorites, from fish and chips to half pound Angus beef burgers to spaghetti and meatballs. Adding to the appeal is the fact that virtually everything, from salad dressings to the batter on those fish and chips, is made from scratch.

I'm guessing Rudy's prices don't hurt either. The two most popular entrees happen to be the most expensive: bourbon salmon ($12.95, served with rice pilaf) and a 10-ounce rib-eye ($13.95, with garlic mashed potatoes).

Finally, as a sign of the town's gastronomic coming of age, it's hard to top the arrival of Apex Beverage Co. (800 W. Williams St.; 367-9414; www.apexbeveragecompany.com), the first full-fledged wine shop in Apex. The shop stocks a respectable selection of about 800 wines, with thousands more available by special order. The bulk of the business, in fact, is through the company's Web site, which ships all over the country and offers inexpensive delivery throughout the Triangle.

Still, there's nothing like paying the shop a personal visit -- especially on Friday evenings and all day Saturday, when free wine tastings are conducted by owners Jake Jacobs and Eric Stokes, with more than 30 years of combined experience in the wine trade. For an extra $3 to $5, you can also sample selection of reserve wines. And every month or so, the shop hosts an evening wine tasting with food for about $20. The next one, which will feature the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is scheduled Friday.

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